Prosecutorial Conflicts of Interest and Excessive Use of Force by Police
ABA Criminal Justice, Summer 2015
5 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2015
Date Written: August 11, 2015
Investigations into the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner raised important questions about prosecutorial conflict of interest when investigating allegations of excessive use of force by police. Both Brown and Garner were unarmed and in both instances died at the hands of the police. Neither officer involved in their deaths was prosecuted.
Concern about prosecutor conflict of interest in handling allegations of excessive use of force by police is widespread. Many say that independent review by special prosecutors in such cases is necessary in order to increase public confidence in the criminal justice system. Some commentators argue that without a special prosecutor there is unequal justice, that is, different justice for police officers than for others in the community.
In this article we analyze whether current legal ethics conflict of interests rules require a prosecutor to withdraw from investigating and evaluating charges against police when there are allegations of excessive use of force. We also consider whether a special prosecutor is required in such cases, and whether a special prosecutor is desirable and consistent with other overarching goals of the criminal justice system. In addition to examining these issues, we make recommendations for bar authorities to provide more guidance to prosecutors.
Keywords: conflict of interest, prosecutor, justice, excessive use of force, police use of force, legal ethics, justice
JEL Classification: K14, K19, K49
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation